Japan readied its missile defence systems to shoot down a North Korean rocket on Friday, as the UN chief warned that next month’s launch could jeopardize food aid.
6:35AM GMT 23 Mar 2012
The nuclear-armed North has announced it will launch a rocket in mid-April to put a satellite into orbit, a move that the United States, South Korea and other nations see as a pretext for a long-range missile test banned by the UN.
The move by North Korea’s new leadership has set off alarm bells across the region. The Philippines is calling for help from the United States to monitor the rocket, part of which is expected to land off the archipelago.
The preparations by Japan, regularly the target of North Korean barbs, come as world leaders including US President Barack Obama prepare to meet in Seoul early next week for a summit officially focused on nuclear terrorism.
But the North’s atomic programme is expected to be the subject of intense discussion at the talks, which are also to be attended by the presidents of China and Russia.
“I have ordered officials to prepare to deploy the PAC-3 and Aegis warships,” Japan’s Defence Minister Naoki Tanaka told reporters, referring to surface-to-air missiles and destroyers carrying missiles “We are talking to relevant local governments about the deployment,” he said.